Guide to the papers of Lieutenant John Desmond Peck




The papers of VX9534 Lieutenant John Desmond Peck record his experiences after becoming a prisoner of war in Crete during the Second World War. His transcript Captive in Crete, tells of his capture in 1941 by German Alpine troops at Kalives. Lt Peck's collection of papers includes resistance movement documents in German and Italian and documents concerning his trial for espionage 1944 at Vercelli. Other items in the collection include a report of his activities for the Australian Army, 1944; letters from the Australian Red Cross Society to Lt Peck's parents, 1941-1945; letters of appreciation to Lt Peck from prisoners of war he assisted to escape, 1946-1953 and from his friends in Crete and Italy; photographs; newspaper cuttings; service records; a certificate of appreciation from the Shire of Flinders,1940; the citation for his DCM; audio tapes; and correspondence from the British historian Roger Absalom, 1988.

SERIES 1: Personal Papers of Lt J D Peck, 1939-1988 - Description: Private and official letters to Lt Peck and his parents. Other records include Lt Peck's service papers and certificates.; SERIES 2: Memoir: Captive in Crete, 1950-1990 - Description: Lt Peck wrote Captive in Crete after the war and filed in this series are drafts, publisher's correspondence and photographs. SERIES 3: Official Reports, 1944-1946 - Description: Reports written by Lt Peck for the Australian Army and typescript notes on his partisan activities in Italy, 1944-1946.; SERIES 4: Resistance papers, 1943-1946 - Description: Photographs, papers and correspondence, written mainly in Italian and German, concerning the resistance movement in Italy and Lt Peck's trial in 1945, at Vercelli, Italy.; SERIES 5: Papers concerning Oreste Barbero, 1944-1971 - Description: This series contains papers which refer to Oreste Barbero who assisted Lt Peck in his partisan activities in Italy. Also includes correspondence from friends, 1944-1960.; SERIES 6: Newspaper clippings, 1937-1960 - Description: This series includes a large quantity of cuttings relating to Lt Peck and the activities of the Resistance movement in Italy.; SERIES 7: Photographs, 1940-1990 - Description: This series contains portrait and tourist photographs taken during the military career of Lt Peck. It includes photographs of resistance fighters and of Lt Peck in the disguise he assumed when he was assisting prisoners of war to escape from Italy to Switzerland.; SERIES 8: Papers concerning George Psychoundakis, 1990-1991 - Description: Photographs, correspondence and audio tapes relating to the reunion of George Psychoundakis and Lt Peck.; SERIES 9: Papers associated with Roger Absalom, Bill Bunbury and Bill Rudd, 1988-c1999 - Description: Correspondence exchanged between Roger Absalom, Bill Bunbury and Bill Rudd relating to Absalom's research on Australian prisoners of war in Italy during the Second World War.; SERIES 10: Commemoration, 1992 - Description: Papers and photographs relating to the ANZAC Day commemorative Service, Staffordshire, UK, 1992.; SERIES 11: Audio tapes and transcripts: biographical material, c1995-c2000 - Description: Audio tapes (16667/7) made by the Imperial War Museum, c1996, by Bill Bunbury for ABC Radio Talking history program, 1995.; SERIES 12: Miscellaneous publications, 1943-1991 - Description: Miscellaneous published magazines and books collected by Peck.

John Desmond Peck (1922-2002) was born at Woollahra, New South Wales, son of H J Peck of the Royal Australian Navy. The family later moved to Victoria where they lived at Crib Point, Melbourne, near the Naval Base. When he was thirteen years old Peck obtained a job on a farm at Craigieburn. Peck needed no encouragement to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force in October 1939 when the Second World War broke out. He increased his age by four years to 22, in order to be eligible for an overseas posting. He travelled on the 'Empress of Japan' to Egypt and then on to Palestine for training and was posted with the Headquarters Australian Overseas Base. Eventually his age was discovered and rather than being sent back to Australia, General Blamey allowed him to stay in Gaza as his batman. In 1940 Peck transferred to the infantry and joined the 2/7th Battalion, AIF. From Palestine he went to Libya in the Western Desert for training. He saw action for the first time at Bardia in January 1941, then went on to Tobruk and Derna. Landing on Crete at Suda Bay in April 1941 he was involved in hand to hand combat when he and others were surprised by a large body of Germans advancing from the aerodrome. The 2/7th Battalion remained on rearguard duty and so were not evacuated from Crete and were captured by the Germans. He escaped from Galatas prisoner of war camp and with help from friends at Georgioupolis evaded capture for about a year. New Zealander Noel Dunn and Lt Peck trained bands of Cretan partisans in infantry weapons and tactics. He met Commander F G Pool, a British naval intelligence officer who with him coordinated the escape of many prisoners from the island by submarine. Peck suffering from malaria was assisted to escape by George Psychoundakis, a local Cretan, but missed two Royal Navy undercover submarine evacuations. He was captured with a RAF radio set in May 1942 by an Italian patrol and taken to Italy via Rhodes for trial as a spy. He avoided the firing squad, escaped and arrived at Bari Camp PG 75 in Athens. In 1943 after spending time at Cranina Camp 65 and Udine Camp 57, he escaped from Vercelli Camp 106 and travelled to the Swiss border. During 1943 to 1944 Lt Peck organised the expatriation of 1,500 ex POWs to Switzerland. He received a DCM for his work. Arrested in February 1944, he was sentenced to death, and was sent to the San Vittore Gestapo Prison in Milan, North Italy but escaped to Switzerland. He returned to Italy in June 1944 to join the underground Italian resistance. Peck crossed the Swiss frontier in October 1944 and travelled to England. In January 1945 he returned to Australia and attended the Victory March in London in 1946. Lt Peck lived in England after the war and worked with the English Electric Company in Stafford.

Contact Senior Curator, Private Records, Australian War Memorial.

Open - Contact Senior Curator, Private Records, Australian War Memorial.

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2/7 Battalion AIF, 1939-1945; Escapees; Espionage; Prisoner of War camps; Submarines; Underground movements

Lieutenant John Desmond Peck

Personal papers

Prisoners of War; World wars

Coverage Temporal



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2012-05-30 23:43

2011-06-08 12:32